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2022 New York Jets

New York Jets 2022 Draft: A Master Class By Joe Douglas

The New York Jets needed a win. With the season still months away, it feels like Joe Douglas and his staff delivered that win. After a weekend in late April that saw Gang Green act boldly to acquire the players they wanted. The Jets’ draft had been universally praised. Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranked it as his top draft. “The Jets made seven in this year’s draft and I think they nailed each one,” Brugler wrote in The Athletic.

The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, a guest on The Rich Eisen Show, told Eisen (noted Jets fan) “Look at the number of picks they had, so they should’ve had the best draft and they absolutely in my opinion, 100 percent had the best draft.”

This is the second draft in a row that the Jets have received praise. Douglas has seemly put the pieces in place for New York to have sustained success. Here is a look at the 2022 draft class.

Prospect Info

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Round 1, Pick 4

  • College: Cincinnati
  • Class: Junior
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 190 lbs

Breakdown:

After weeks and months of speculation and smoke screens, the New York Jets were on the clock with the fourth pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. With edge rusher, Kavon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu still on the board, general manager Joe Douglas selected elite cornerback prospect Ahmad Gardner. While many speculated before the draft the Jets would not prioritize a cornerback early, head coach Robert Saleh knows his defensive system works best with elite cornerback play.

Gardner is the latest move in a complete overhaul of the Jets’ secondary. Gang Green ranked 30th against the pass last season. Not content to stand pat with young, developing corners Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols, Douglas added corner D.J. Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead addressing a serious weakness.

Expert analysis:

A three-year starter at Cincinnati, Gardner was the boundary cornerback in defensive coordinator Mike Tressel’s man-heavy scheme. Despite marginal
experience as a full-time cornerback in high school, he put his name on the NFL radar as a freshman and earned All-America status each of his three college seasons, becoming the first non-specialist to earn Consensus All-America honors in school history. Gardner is a long-bodied, athletic cover man who does a great job staying on top of routes to force quarterbacks to look elsewhere (saw only 11.0 percent of the defensive targets in 2021). He shows better poise at the line of scrimmage than downfield, but he plays fearlessly and has the disruptive skills to make plays on the ball when challenged (zero touchdown passes allowed in 1,103 career coverage snaps in college). Overall, Gardner needs to continue developing his play strength, but he is a sticky bump-and-run corner with the athletic instincts to stay in phase and smother receivers. Cincinnati hasn’t produced an NFL first-round pick since 1971, but that will soon change with Gardner.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Prospect Info

Garrett Wilson, WR, Round 1, Pick 10

  • College: Ohio State
  • Class: Junior
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 183 lbs

Breakdown:

For most of the offseason, the Jets have been linked to wide receivers. They had a deal for Tyreek Hill that fell through, they inquired about Calvin Ridley and Amari Cooper, and right up until they selected Wilson, they were linked to Deebo Samual. So New York selecting a wide receiver here seemed to jive with their desire to add a pass-catcher to the offense. Many draft gurus had Wilson as their top-rated wide receiver.

Expert Analysis:

A two-year starter at Ohio State, Wilson was the X receiver in head coach Ryan Day’s multiple spread offense, lining up primarily outside in 2021 after
spending 2020 in the slot. Despite never leading Ohio State in receiving in any of his three seasons, his production increased each year, and he was one of only six FBS pass catchers to average more than 95.0 receiving yards and 1.0 touchdown per game in 2021. A Division I basketball recruit out of high school, Wilson credits basketball (his favorite sport) for developing the route athleticism and fluidity in and out of his breaks that makes him a true three-level threat on the football field.
With his long arms and uncanny adjustment skills, he catches the ball well outside his frame and is comfortable operating with bodies around him. Overall, Wilson
needs continued route refinement, but he makes the playbook come alive with his ability to get open before and after the catch thanks to his athleticism and
instincts. With his slender frame, elite body control, and catch-point skills, he reminds me of CeeDee Lamb.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Prospect Info

Jermaine Johnson, DE, Round 1, Pick 26

  • College: Florida State
  • Class: Red Shirt Senior
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 254 lbs

Breakdown:

After the pick of Wilson, it seemed like the Jets’ search for a pass rusher, a search that started when John Abraham was traded in 2006, would continue on. But Douglas was aggressive. He started making calls to move up when the Houston Texans were on the clock at 15. Douglas called each team as Johnson started to slide. Trader Joe was finally on the clock with the 26th pick after making a trade with the Tennesse Titans.

A slide to the 26th pick for Johnson seemed almost unimaginable before the draft. But a franchise that has seen so many disappointments in the past decade-plus, had the football gods watching over them on this night almost guiding Johnson to them. As Johnson told reporters, “To be able to be selected in the first round, and by the Jets, I’m so excited. When I visited with the Jets, it was a family feel. We clicked instantly. They said they’d come and get me and that’s what they did.”

Expert Analysis:

Ascending edge prospect. Johnson has NFL traits and the potential to keep getting bigger and better as a pro. He is a one-year full-time starter with an underdeveloped pass rush and occasional lapses in awareness, but both areas should be correctable with more coaching and game experience. He’s more instinctive and consistent as a run defender, but his length and relentlessness are excellent building blocks for challenging protection. Johnson’s blend of strength and athleticism should make him a firm edge-setter and playmaker near the line of scrimmage for odd or even fronts. He has the traits, athleticism and talent to project as a top-40 pick with a bright future.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Prospect Info:

Breece Hall, RB, Round 2, Pick 4

  • College: Iowa State
  • Class: Junior
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 217 lbs

Breakdown:

As night two started Douglas would again be aggressive, this time trading up ahead of the Texans to get their guy. The Texans had been rumored to be planning to pick Hall with the 37th pick. The Jets were sitting at 38 and Joe D needed to make a move to secure his guy. Trader Joe struck a deal with his MetLife Stadium roommates sending the Giants a fifth-round pick to move up two spots, selecting the former Iowa State ball carrier. Hall widely considered the top running back now forms a dynamic backfield with Micheal Carter. 

The running back room is now a strength for the Jets. Having two young dynamic backs that can carry the rock, as well as catch it out of the backfield, is sure to help quarterback Zach Wilson, as he looks to take the next step in his NFL development.

Expert Analysis:

Hall is a big, smooth runner with outstanding patience and balance. He has a unique style — almost walking to the line of scrimmage before finding a crease, getting skinny and exploding through. He has outstanding contact balance, absorbing defenders and driving his feet for extra yards. He is elusive in space. He doesn’t possess elite top-end speed, but he still hits some home runs (SEE: first play from scrimmage vs. Kansas State). He is an outstanding weapon in the passing game as a clean route runner with exceptional hands. Check out his one-handed catch vs. Oklahoma. He is firm in pass protection, but has been late to identify blitzers at times. Overall, Hall has an ideal skill set for today’s game.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

Prospect Info:

Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Round 3, Pick 37

  • College: Ohio State
  • Class: Senior
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 250 lbs

Breakdown:

The feel-good story of the draft for the Jets was next. A Long Island kid that grew up a Jets fan gets picked by his hometown team. Does it get any better than that? Well sure because that kid is actually pretty good. Ruckert played in a system that did not feature the tight end in the passing game. But with two 2022 first-round picks and more than likely a 2023 first-round pick playing wide receiver, there are only so many footballs to go around.

Ruckert will join free-agent signees C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in a newly rebuilt tight end room. Another position went from being a major weakness to becoming a major strength over the past couple of months.

Expert Analysis:

Muscular move tight end on the collegiate level who should be able to find a home as an in-line worker. Ruckert should test well creating a favorable height-weight-speed profile that could push him up draft boards. He blocks with good aggression, but can be a little inconsistent at the point of attack for now. He’s not as explosive in his route-running as his testing might indicate but will catch what is thrown his way even though he might never be much of a volume target. He has TE2 potential and could become an average NFL starter.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Prospect Info:

Max Mitchell, OT, Round 4, Pick 6

  • College: Louisiana
  • Class: Senior
  • Height: 6’6″
  • Weight: 307 lbs

Breakdown:

In round four the Jets grabbed Pro Football Focus’ highest graded tackle. Mitchell is another guy with some upside that slides right in the role of swing tackle with the Jets. A former tight-end Mitchell can still afford to put on some weight and improve overall strength but the tools are there for the former Ragin Cajun to carve out a role with the Jets.

Expert Analysis:

A three-year starter at Louisiana, Mitchell lined up primarily at right tackle in former head coach Billy Napier’s zone-heavy offense. With only one season of starting experience on varsity in high school, he could have used a redshirt in college but was thrown into the fire and learned from eventual NFL draft picks Robert Hunt and Kevin Dotson. Mitchell moves well and has steadily gotten better with his technique the last three seasons, specifically with his landmarks and hand exchange. Somewhat of a late bloomer physically, he can be jostled at contact and his lack of base/core strength shows on tape. Overall, Mitchell was a below average tester and needs to continue developing his strength, but his play quickness is an asset in pass protection and as a zone run blocker. He does a great job reestablishing his hands mid-block. He isn’t ready made for the NFL, but he the potential is there for him to grow into a swing tackle role.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Prospect Info:

Micheal Clemons, DE, Round 4, Pick 12

  • College: Texas A&M
  • Class: Red Shirt Senior
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 263 lbs

Breakdown:

Clemons, a graduate student was the Jets’ final pick. He led the Aggies with 13 quarterback hurries last season. While the Jets didn’t need another defensive end, coach Saleh likes to use a rotation of players along the defensive line and Clemons will fit that role. When discussing Clemons in a post-draft press conference Douglas had this to say, “I feel like he’s one of the nastier players in the entire draft. His physicality, the edge that he plays with, the toughness that he brings, we don’t think you can have enough of that on this team.”

Expert Analysis:

A tight-legged defensive end with NFL measurables and toughness, Clemons’ style of football won’t be a flavor that will appeal to every team. His movements are rigid and limiting at times, but his motor and play strength are qualities some teams see as building blocks for a successful career in more physically minded fronts. He needs to diversify his rush approach but his heavy hands have legitimate pro potential in opening pathways to the pocket. He has pro-ready traits, but a lack of fluidity and functional agility create a limited ceiling.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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